• Ejuen Armstrong

Will Family and Friends Read My Books?

Understand who you're really writing for


Not unless there's that rare, true fan among them.

Buy my book, fam

One of the first mistakes that new writers – and sometimes even established ones – make is to have some great expectation that friends and family will read their books. Some may buy them, but here’s the thing. Often, it's not because they enjoy reading them. They're buying them because they love you and they want to support you. Or they want be connected to a writer. Yes, there is still that massive mystique and prestige - thank you very much, world - about the term. But as a regular source of income, fame, notoriety, and general interest, you may have to write something that's controversial, like erotica – and most writers are shy of sharing this with their families.

How about you, friend?

Your social circle is not your readership. The only way this would work is if you looked at everything they read and wrote stories that catered to their subjective world view. Ola likes spirituality and yoga, Daniel is into architecture, Maria loves skiing in the winter. As for the food they eat, the songs they like, and the movies they watch, you didn’t choose your friends because they are a clone of you. So why be surprised, or even angry, when they don’t want to support your literary output? If you've got a good beta reader among them, count your blessings.

Your social circle is not your readership

Once you step into that world of expectation, anxiety may set in. You're thinking: How do I get started on putting my book out there? Do I need to copy someone famous? Should I have a formula?

Yes, the market and the publishing world awaits. That's where a little desperation may come in. You want them to treat your book like gold. You want to 'fit in'. And of course, whatever you've produced from following the market will be loved by everyone you know.

Are you following a trend?

Will it, though? A great deal of money is spent on creating an audience for particular genres. You've got to really be willing to jump through some difficult hoops, and to flex like a rubber band. Here’s a glimpse of some the tropes and trends that have grown (or been reintroduced) into popular genre fiction over the years.

  • Unreliable narrators

  • Multiple narrators

  • Mixed tenses

  • Romance in the first person

  • Interspecies relationships

  • Sci-fi and fantasy - together!

  • Fifty Shades of Not Quite Grey but Very Similar Indeed

  • Urban fiction

Who are you really writing for?

Of course, some of these are old devices. One of the best examples of unreliable and multiple narrators is in Wilkie Collins 1868 English classic, The Moonstone. But, ever heard a friend say, "I can't stand books in the first person"? And guess which tense you've written your grand opus in? You thought that was the popular trend, and now you discover that half your potential readership circle of aunts and uncles don't like that style.

Don't fret. Take your time and a deep breath. And remember that the publishing sector is a fascist's paradise that will proclaim: "Today we're going to tell you how to think and write. But keep in mind, it all changes tomorrow." Find out who you're writing for.

If you've got a good beta reader among them, count your blessings.

If you're writing merely for someone else's delight, then you're only going to please a limited few. And it's not likely they'll be among your family and friends circle. If you want to find your own writing identity, the first thing to understand is that writers are often fearful of being free agents; readers aren't.

Ask yourself a few questions: “Am I writing for the love of the craft – or because I just want to be published? Is this genre the one I really enjoy or is it the buzz thing for now? Am I just attracted to the 'elitism' of writing? Do I imagine everyone I know will buy my books? How will I feel if they don't?"

How far am I willing to go? How do I measure success?

Publisher? or Service?

For writers keen to attract interest, there are any number of outlets: publishing platforms, forums, writing groups, online support guides, vanity presses, agents, directories, social media, and many more. But be careful.

There are companies who will say, “We’re a publishing house. Pay us £4,000.00 for a gold service and we’ll produce a book with your name on it.”

Well, if you have to pay them, they’re not publishers – they are publishing service providers. In contrast, publishers will spend time going over your manuscript. They may take several months to get back to you on your submission. If you and your story are marketable a publisher will edit, proof-read, design the cover, and market your work.

They will seek reviews. However, just so you’re not under any illusions, these days even traditional publishers expect you to do the work of self-promotion. But the key difference is, you don't pay publishers - they pay you. It could be a penny or £200.00, but the money travels from them to you, not the other way round.

Be happy with your decision

If this is your route, then take a step back. Be clear about what you are willing to sacrifice – then go for it. Hopefully you’ll be able to look back over the years and say, “I wouldn’t change that decision. I’m happy and it was worth it.”

Ask yourself: Are they readers? Would they read what I read? What I write?

Take a deep breath, from from the beginning, look around at your social circles. Ask yourself: Are they readers? Would they read what I read? What I write? Or like it? Do we connect on a literary or genre level? Think about the things they've recommended to you. It's ok if you don't share the same tastes. Sometimes that's what attracted you to them, isn't it? Vive la difference.

Ultimately, we’re all different. Views, fashion, food, music, culture and numerous other factors. Expecting the people around you to be a reading clone of you is always going to be high risk venture on your author journey. So don't try to push all your work on to them if the red flags are already up. They don't owe your literary talent any allegiance. Hold off the pressure, keep your relationship healthy and focus on finding a sustainable market.

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